OPINION: War Against the Poor, Weeding of the Emeralds

by Villainus (formerly Bypolar)

People have blamed the houseless crisis in Seattle on a lot of things: mental illness, chemical dependency, even laziness. In truth, they point a finger in every direction except toward the root cause: gentrification.

From my standpoint, as black person from this town, gentrifiers are the bulk of who makes up the body of the political organizations and “news/media” pushing for austerity. Those whose investments and livings are made by the displacement of communities already existing in this city. This was not unintentional but instead a carefully crafted plan, executed over decades, which was lovingly called “weed and seed.”

“Operation Weed and Seed,” deployed in 1991, represents the attempt to “improve the quality of life in America’s cities”, which of course translates to displacement of the poor for later economic gains from raising property values. The ultimate goal was to incarcerate youth and families with allegations of violent crime, drug trafficking, and drug-related crimes. Targeting “high-crime neighborhoods” in attempts to provide enticing opportunity for investors.  Weed and Seed, administered by the Executive Office for Weed and Seed (EOWS), was founded on a philosophy that targeted communities can best be improved by a two-pronged strategy of “weeding” the criminal element (code for poor folks of color) removing them from the intended area and “seeding” real estate inverters, CEOs, Amazon employees, and well-off college students. Aggressive policing strategies where a focal tactic in this most grand of larcenies.

“Incarceration Station” is the only way I can describe my teen years. It was clear to our whole community that we were targeted by the police, politicians, government, and those of high economic status. They would use multiple unprincipled tactics to drive our communities out of our homes. Many tactics were so draconian, I’d say they were medieval. One would be to trespass youth from a whole street so there family would be forced to move, with the only suspicion given as justification.

They also would outright seize houses as long as they could find the slightest justification. For Example, if someone’s child was accused of selling drugs or engaging in sex work while living under that roof (even if they where an adult), the state would use civil forfeiture laws to steal the family’s house, despite the household not being any part of allegations, and many times without even having knowledge of any alleged crime. All this to make a profit, to turn from a forested grunge city to the oasis of tech, with no regard to the lives that will be affected, will be destroyed.

“The Flip” is what happened next, property were then put on the market.  Many homes eventually sold to realtors at a profit. One by one homes and apartments are replaced by tin dumpster condos, often valued at half a million dollars each — in all honestly are glorified townhouses and apartments. So many families were just shoved out there homes without any compensation. While all these folks who have stepped on your community over and over again get wealthy off your pain.

The cost is a city with one of the greatest houseless crises since the Great Depression. A city where at times rent has increased 33 percent in a single a month, where in, about the last 10 years you could rent a room for $250 a month and now you’d be lucky to find it for under $750. In response to the epic despair it leaves people struggling to survive, already we have seen a resurgence of opiates. However, unlike common myth, it is not the source of their struggle but the symptom of it. This is a city with fewer and fewer people who grew up here living as residents, while simultaneously the houseless population grows. It is not random, its correlated.

As the cost goes up and the opportunities are consistently giving to those from outside our communities it leaves many with no option but houslessness or illicit activities. What’s the other option? Die? Well it definitely feels like that’s what’s wanted from the cold stares, the scorn, and the malice shown. Chang is a long road of building empathy and owning damage done, If we are trying to live in a society where people are valued. It will take a lot of material action to change the reality that we are living in. we are at rock bottom as a society, are we going to choose to climb out this pit and value our people, every emerald found here, or are we throwing in the towel on our souls?

It’s on us to decide; it’s on you to decide.

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Featured Image: “Weeds in Waterloo, Ontario” by Lupin is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

6 thoughts on “OPINION: War Against the Poor, Weeding of the Emeralds”

  1. Good op ed. I agree. Weed and seed is also the theory behind building more psych hospitals. There is no evidence more beds are needed. Rather housing and community based services and supports are needed.

    It seems the policy is to institutionalize People of Color, people with low incomes and disabled people. Then have access to development, home sales and higher property taxes.

    I vote with caring about each Emerald and building inclusive communities. But there will have to be a larger resistance from the populace to change politicians and policy direction.

  2. The “gentrification” you describe was part of a national strategy of “escalating inequality” – union busting, globalization, outsourcing, Wallt Street financialization, corporate monopolization, privitization, tax shifting, etc.

    It took a very long time, but we’re finally seeing the backlash, via Kshama, Bernie, Warren, AOC, Ihan Omar, Pramilya, Black Lives Matter, etc.. But the battle for real change is only getting going, with Trump being only the most corrupt and immoral version of the old order of deregulated free market capitalism.

    Gentrification is simply a predictable product of all these forces designed to make “the rich richer and the poor poorer”. Nor will it be easy even in “progressive Seattle” where NYMBISM is now a potent force against affordable housing, having gotten people to vote for district city council elections and then targeted district reps who fail to pay sufficient homage to property values.

    1. Really Dick, you think we should go back to an all at-large Council elections? Did you watch any of the performance by the two at-large CMs, Mosqueda and CM Gonzalez, during the consideration of MHA? Their positions promote gentrification and displacement.

      Instead, you blame “NIMBYISM” as a “potent force”? Go to the link below and read the City’s own race and social justice review of the MHA EIS; it is clear that *the City* and “YIMBYs” (funded by Vulcan) are responsible for continued gentrification and displacement. “NIMBYs” are not in control of the land use decisions driving those impacts.

      It’s ironic that you criticize “deregulated free market capitalism” at the national level, but are oblivious to it in your own back yard.